Day Twelve: Perseverance

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

“Forty” is a significant number with clear symbolic meaning. Jesus’ forty days in the desert remind us of the forty days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai when he saw God “face to face” and received the Ten Commandments, the basis for the covenant of the Old Law. The Old Law was but a prefiguration of the New Law of truth and grace that Jesus came to institute. Thus, during these forty days, Jesus becomes the New Moses on Mount Sinai, preparing to present to God’s people the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments, and giving them the grace needed to be faithful.

These forty days in the desert also remind us of the forty years that the Israelites wandered through the desert on their journey to the Promised Land. Recall that the Promised Land was to be one “flowing with milk and honey,” (Exodus 3:8) a paradise on earth.

During their forty-year journey in the desert, God provided for their needs. He gave them water, manna in the morning, and quail in the evening. This bread and flesh on which they lived symbolized the new sustenance that Jesus would give in the Holy Eucharist. The forty years of wandering in the desert also symbolize the journey of our entire lives toward Heaven. Earthly life is one of “wandering,” being provided for by God, and anticipating the great reward of our perseverance.

Since Jesus’ forty days in the desert was a new living out of the Israelites’ time in the desert, we should also see it as a symbol of our journeys through life. This life we live is one of struggle, deprivation of the glories that God promises to bestow upon us, and a time during which we must always keep our eyes on the goal of our journey: Heaven.

As soon as the Israelites completed their journey, they were rewarded with the Promised Land. As soon as Jesus completed His forty days in the desert, He emerged saying, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Those who conclude their journeys through the desert of this life with fidelity to the will of God, and are purged from every sin and attachment to sin, will receive the promised superabundant life of Heaven.

As you ponder the meaning of “forty,” see it as God calling you to persevere. Do not quit the journey before the finish line. Persevere and have hope that “the time of fulfillment” awaits. For now, we remain on our journeys and must press on to the end. We must endure the hardships of the desert of this life, relying upon God’s providence, being fed by the new manna and quail in the Eucharist, and remaining sustained by the spring of Living Water given to us at Baptism. During this journey, we must remain faithful to the Old Law, now elevated and fulfilled by the New Law of Jesus’ teachings and the gift of grace, as our commitment to the new Covenant God has offered to us. If we are faithful to the journey, God will be faithful in bestowing the reward.

My persevering Lord, You remained faithful to Your mission of fasting and praying for forty days. You pressed on to the end of that time and endured much. When You emerged, You announced that the time of fulfillment had arrived. Please give me Your strength and grace to persevere through the desert of this life. Give me hope for all that awaits in the glories of Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Day Twelve: 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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